The voters of Texas elect members into the State Legislature to represent the people’s will in Texas decision making. These members have an obligation to their constituencies to speak and vote on the bill’s brought before them. The income they receive for their duty to the state comes directly from the taxpayer’s within the state. In The Miracle of the Killer Bees: 12 Senators Who Changed Texas Politics by Robert Heard, the negligence of 12 Texas Senators toward their political and constitutional responsibilities is unrightfully exonerated. Heard’s descriptions of the Senators, legislative actions, and political importance are extremely biased, and he does not portray the incident fairly.
The legislative bill, which instigates the controversy and events taking place in this book, calls for two separate days for primary elections. The presidential primary would be held on a different day than other political offices. The Senate, however, is to discuss another bill concerning the election, bill 1149, but it is foreseen that the house will send back the bill amended, providing for a separate-day primary. The reason for converging thoughts on bill 602, the one concerning a separate-day primary, was its effect on the democratic elections coming up. The anticipation of a close race between Ronald Reagan and John Connelly in the upcoming Republican Party’s primary election created a strong desire for conservative Democratic voter’s to participate. However, with the more conservative democrats voting on the Republican primary, the more moderate and liberal Democrats would dominate in nominating their candidates for other political offices.
This took place in 1979, a time when Democrats were the Texas majority; only four of the thirty-one members of the Senate being Republican. The 602 bill would require a two-thirds majority in the Senate, which would keep it from being considered due to lack of support, but if 1149, which is more favorable, gets to the house and then sent back with provisions for 602 only a majority in Senate would pass it. Lieutenant Governor, presiding officer in the Senate, Bill Hobby posted notice that the Senate would be switch to a less traditional rule. This gave Hobby ability to switch to “regular order of business” on Friday, which allowed for the pending election bill, 1149, to be decided on. That prior Tuesday, a filibuster by some of the killer bees kept the bill from being resolved; therefore, this overcame their hope to kill it. The name, killer bees, was actually first given to Senator Lloyd Doggett and Senator Ron Clower by Hobby for their use of filibusters in anti-environment and anti-consumer legislation. These two and Senators Parker, Mauzy, Schwartz, Jones, Patman, Truan, Kothman, and Vale made up the ten that together met at Parker’s legislative aide, Dora McDonald’s for breakfast on that Friday and refused to go to the capital building and perform their Senatorial duties. Also missing were Longoria, who had a previously scheduled court date, and Brooks, who did not clearly take sides with either the bees or Hobby.
The Senate, therefore, did not have two-thirds or 21 of its members, which is necessary for them to hold session. The killer bees accomplished their mission, to break the quorum, and defeat Hobby’s attempt to pass the new bill. The rest of the book describes their hiding in the McDonald’s one room apartment and the call placed on the Senate issuing a statewide search involving the DPS for the missing Senators including Longoria, whom sided with the bees and Brooks, who was in Oklahoma and kept his intentions covert to everyone. Two Senators need to be found in order to conduct business in the Senate giving them the two-thirds attendance. Heard gives many accounts of Hobby and the remaining Senator’s anger and disgust of the current situation.
Finally after 4 days with no sign of the Bees, Brooks back from Oklahoma claims he had no affiliation with the Killer Bees and their cause, but had just found out about the happenings in the Texas Senate. He sets up to meet with Hobby that night to talk about negotiations for the return of the Killer Bees. He acts as spokesman for the Bees, though never discusses this with any of them or even makes them aware of his conference. Brooks never actually associating himself with the Killer Bees and seems to have waited for either another senator to be caught or a popular opinion from the public to be visible, following the general rule in politics. The next day Hobby was ready to negotiate, after also receiving a call from Gene Jones, whom remained hidden but split with the other nine in McDonald’s apartment the first day, because the compact living conditions were intolerable. Schwartz called Hobby they discussed the conditions of the Killer Bees return: none of the Killer Bees could make personal privilege speeches against Hobby or any of the other senators, the call on the Senate would be lifted, and the Senate would handle routine business at a time after 3 p.m. letting the Bees have a press conference to share their feelings with the press, and the 1149 bill would then be laid out for a second reading, but no further moves could be made without the traditional two-thirds vote to suspend the rules. This was agreed upon and the Bees came back to the Senate.
The 1149 bill did not receive sufficient votes for the two-thirds majority and was killed in the Senate. This gives the impression that the popularity of the Killer Bees might have had some influence on whether the senators should oppose the bill, again wanting to please the Texas voter. Their popularity was strengthened through the press’ support of the Killer Bees. Heard writes,
The Dallas Times Herald came down much stronger, saying the Bees “deserve to beremembered as heroes” for the fight against the “rigged presidential primary.”(81)Another possible explanation for their popularity would be the Killer Bees’ actions show a certain rebellious and unconventional behavior that grabs the attention of the people, deviating from the predictable, seemingly boring routine of a congressional office to those that follow politics closely. The Killer Bees also mislead the public about their motives and against Hobby; such as Schwartz’ press statement:
We understand that some of the members of the Senate have been prompted to speech-making about all the wonderful bills not being considered while the rest of us are protecting Texas from an unwanted, rigid bill. There has never been any question of our willingness to work under the same rules we started with this session. Bills require a two-thirds vote in the Senate to be considered but now the pressure is on and the rules have been changed in midstream for one
The Senator claims the Lieutenant Governor changed the rules in midstream; however, the switch is justified constitutionally. If the constitution calls for terms unfavorable to Texans, What better position to work for a change than State Senator? He later goes on to say the senators favoring the bill are trying to save their own political career at the expense of the voter, yet, the rejection of this bill will strengthen the vote of moderate and liberal Democrats. It would seem that living in a 19 by 14 foot room with 8 other men for five days in order to avoid an unwanted bill as a fairly liberal action. The Five Million dollars appears incredibly large when alone, however, after divided by all the taxpayers in Texas comes to be greatly minute. In 1980 the Texas population stood at 14,229,191 according Texas Census records.
Heard’s account of the “miracle” of the Killer Bees shows obvious favoritism of not only the Democratic party but the moderate to liberal side of it. Heard exonerates the actions of these 12 senators. The actions of these Texas Senators much resemble a small child when he sees something he wants, but knows can not have. First, the child will try take it with out confronting anyone about it; similarly, the Bees try to filibuster not letting anyone even have a say in the matter. When that does not work then the child will be completely stubborn and obstinate, not cooperating, crying “that’s not fair” and making the parent look guilty in front of peers and those they respect. In the same way, these twelve want the bill in their favor. When they find out they can not have things how they want they refuse to cooperate with Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby and the majority, obvious authority in the Senate. The Bees then cry not to Hobby himself, but to the media and the public, whom Hobby must respect and appear loyal to. As a parent might give in to a whining child in order to regain cooperation and tend to more important matters, Hobby, having more important priorities, must also give in to the senators to regain their cooperation in order to accomplish priorities. The difference between the child and the senators is that a child has not yet learned the skills of persuasion and the senators have made a career out of it.
Heard’s use of the media in the account depicts only one side of general opinion. Robert Heard himself is a news writer. Any event that calls for news coverage is already good to one who works for the media. Important happenings attract the public eye. In order to win viewers, listeners, or readers concerning stories of conflict, the media picks a victim and an assailant, and then imposes their side of the story on the public. As though fiction, the writer, or newscaster only portrays characteristics corresponding with the perceived connotation of good and bad or right and wrong. In this incident, the ones claiming to be taking the side of the people and working for justice in the Senate are easily targeted as victims of Bill Hobby’s selfish and unfair personal wants. When this preconceived notion is already in the heads of Texans, little room is left for convincing otherwise. Heard’s report of the nine Senators living in the small apartment, which would probably make for an entertaining reality show, is interesting; however, his one-sided sources and descriptive characterizations make for good reading but little room for personal interpretation. In a nonfiction book on political persons and events, the information should not be blinded by an author’s personal viewpoint. The facts should speak for themselves.
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